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Study Shows Breastfeeding Has Anti-Aging Effect on Breast Appearance

Who cares about reduced ear infections and handful of IQ points? It turns out breastfeeding has another, far more superficial perk: an anti-aging effect on your breasts.

A study of identical twins suggests that breastfeeding, daily moisturizing and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) enhance the appearance of a woman’s breasts while smoking, drinking, high BMI, large cup size and multiple pregnancies can do the opposite.

The study, called “”Determinants of Breast Appearance and Aging in Twins,” was published this week in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

Researchers studied the breast appearance and lifestyles of 161 sets of female twins between the ages of 25-74.

“It’s very rare that both twins have been through the same exact environmental factors throughout life,”said study author, plastic surgeon Hooman T. Soltanian “The idea was that they have the same [breasts] from a genetic standpoint. If we see a difference, it’s more likely to be environmental factors.”

Women were interviewed about pregnancies, HRT, beauty routines, sun exposure, bras and other pertinent issues. Then their breasts were photographed and evaluated by “independent reviewers” for attractiveness. (Though breast attractiveness is obviously subjective, generally speaking they were looking at perkiness, shape, skin tone and areola size.) Then they looked at the data and tried to figure out what was helping and what wasn’t. Moisturizing seemed to come up pretty quickly as a good thing. HRT after menopause seemed to help.

But the big surprise was the positive effect of nursing. The word on the street is that breastfeeding is the kiss of death when it comes to breasts’ perkiness. In this study, however, the skin quality of breasts was better and firmer in the women who had nursed.

“All these twins did not breast-feed without being pregnant and pregnancy has a negative effect on breast appearance,” he said. “My explanation is that women who breast fed have a different hormonal milieu — sort of like internal hormone replacement. So even though those were disadvantages, they gained some benefit.”

This supports what I’ve always read– though what many women are not told– which is that pregnancy causes breasts to lose elasticity, not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also helps reduce the risk of breast cancer and other reproductive cancers. I’m always happy to read about how the benefits of breastfeeding go in both directions.

So, here’s to nursing your boobs back to health!

ON BABBLE

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a childbirth educator and the co-author of the pregnancy and birth guide From The Hips. Follow her blogging on Facebook.

Photo: Estella and Mark Fisher/Flickr

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